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Jazz Archives #100(12”) 

RLP-117 118 A
RLP-117 118 front
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Backgrounds (Vol.1)

  1. Congo tribal music:

Royal Drums of the Abatutsi; Abatutsi Girls’ Songs; Lobertina (8:59)

  1. Street Cries of Charleston (2:10)

  2. BLIND LEMON HEFFERSON: Shuckin’ Sugar (3:03)

  3. REV. J. M.GATES and Congregation: I’m Going to Heaven if It Takes My Life (2:44)

  4. SODERO’S MILITARY BAND: Slidus Trombonus (1:19)

  5. FRED VAN EPS: Ragtime Oriole (3:20)


  1. Cakewalk (performer unknown): At a Georgia Camp Meeting (2:35)

  2. SCOTT JOPLIN: The Cascades (2:06)

  3. JAMES SCOTT: Frogs Legs Rag (2:33)

  4. JOSEPH LAMB: American Beauty Rag (2:42)

  5. JELLY ROLL MORTON: Perfect Rag (2:41)

  6. COW COW DAVENPORT: Atlanta Rag (3:07)

   That portion of the vast body of jazz that can properly be designated as “classic” makes up a rich and glorious musical heritage. It stretches over many years and much geography: from the work songs and Negro church music that preceded jazz; through ragtime and the early blues; through the great formative years of New Orleans jazz and the “Golden Age” of jazz in Chicago; embracing elements as diverse as barrelhouse “boogie woogie” piano and the music of the white Chicagoans; on through the romping rent-party piano men of Harlem; the birth of big-band jazz; up to present-day Dixieland and the “revivalists” who re-create and adapt the earlier styles.

   All of this is copiously represented on records – but in many cases on records that have long been obscure, virtually unobtainable rareties. Riverside has, through its: Jazz Archives” series of reissues, made available much of this great traditional jazz. The History of Classic Jazz is in a sense the culmination of this unparalleled reissue program, using outstanding examples of the work of the greats (Louis, Basie, Bix, Fats, Jelly Roll and many others) and of numerous less famous but highly significant figures to build a vital panorama that reaches from pre-jazz to the present.

   Each of the five LPs that make up the History is complete in itself, containing two unified “volumes.” But those who find this album a valuable and enjoyable listening experience will surely want to include in their jazz libraries its four companion LPs –

The Blues / New Orleans Style (Vols, 3 and 4): Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, etc. (RLP 12-113)

Boogie Woogie / south Side Chicago (vols. 5 & 6): Jimmy Yancey, Meade Lux Lewis, Johnny Dodds, Freddie Keppard, etc. (RLP 12-114)

Chicago Style / Harlem (vols. 7 & 8): Bix Beiderbecke, Muggsy Spanier, James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, duke Ellington etc. (RLP 12-115)

New York Style / New Orleans Revival (vols. 9 & 10): Red Nichols, Bunk Johnson, Kid Ory, George Lewis, Lu Watters, ets. (RLP 12-116)

*The original edition of the History of Classic Jazz is still available as a single complete five-LP unit, in a seled, deluxe album package – Riverside SPD-11 – which also contains jazz histoiran Charles Edward Smith’s 20,000-word essay; “An Introduction to Classic Jazz.”)


   Royal Drums of the Abatutsi; Avarutsi Girls’ Songs; Lobertina, Belgian Congo; 1951-52 (originally issued on Riverside RLP 4002).

Three examples of African tribal music, relatively unchanging over the centuries, recorded by anthropologist Alan F. Merriam. Respectively, these offer; powerful drum music; group performance of a ‘social song’ (sung at weddings, etc.); and a contemporary folk song. While not presented as specific examples of pre-jazz source material, they indicate some relevant aspects of African music.

   Street Cries of Charleston. Rhythmic chants of Southern Negro street vendors, recorded early in the century (date unknown). Such “natural” semi-musical expression was certainly among the many formative factors preceding the earliest jazz.

   Blind Lemon Jefferson: Shuckin’ Sugar. Vocal, self-accompanied on guitar. Chicago; 1926 (originally issued on Paramount 12454; master number 3077)

An itinerant singer from Texas, Blind Lemon’s repertoire was shaped long before he was recorded. Combining a crude blues framework with a repeated refrain that suggests a work song, this selection points to two major pre-jazz influences.

   Rev. J. M. Gates: I’m Going to Heaven If It Takes My Life. Sermon, with congregation. New York; Dec. 13, 1926.  (originally on Gennett 6034; master number GEX 365). Again the material belongs to a pattern established long before (and much further South than) the recording – a pattern indicating quite clearly the role of Negro religious music in helping to shape early jazz.

   Sodero’s Military Band: Slidus Trombonus. Probably New York, pre-1920.

Presumably designed as a comic novelty, but very much in the brass-band tradition, and serving to introduce still another kind of music that played its part in the initial structure of jazz.

Gred Van Eps: Ragtime Oriole. Banjo solo, with piano accompaniment.

Probably New York, pre-1920. This rag, as interpreted by a noted early-century banjo virtuoso, is included here primarily to suggest the minstrel-show style of music that was also part of the jazz background.


   Cakewalk : At a Georgia Camp Meeting

   Scott Joplin : The Cascades

   James Scott: Frog Legs Rag

Joseph Lamb: American Beauty Rag

Piano solos, all from early (pre-1920) player piano rolls. Four brilliant examples, from a period before the phonograph record came into predominance, of a complex, compelling and once vastly popular musical form that exerted a strong influence on traditional jazz. The cakewalk was a close, slightly older relative of ragtime; Georgia Camp Meeting was written in 1897. The other three selections were composed (and probably performed) by three of the foremost ragtimers: Joplin (1868-1917), unquestionably the major figure of the era; Scott (1186-1938), a slight self-effacing man, but ranked second only to Joplin; Lamb(b.1887), among the very few white men to capture the true ‘feel’ of ragtime.

   JELLY ROLL MORTON: Perfect Rag. Piano solo. Richmond, Indiana; June 9, 1924 (originally on Gennett 5486; master number 11917). Notable examples of the ties between jazz and ragtime abound in the work of the fabulous Jelly Roll, whose style was clearly influenced by the rags heard in New Orleans in his youth.

   COW COW DAVENPORT: Atlanta Rag. Piano solo. Richmond; March, 1929 (Gennet 6869; master number GE 14986). Like many other boogie woogie “primitives,” Cow Cow could also try his hand at ragtime – and what makes this a most fascinating illustrations is his inability to keep the latter from breaking down into the former.




These recordings from source material either owned by Bill Grauer Productions, Inc. or exclusively controlled by special arrangement.

Tape-editing by RAY FOWLER. Remastered by Reeves Sound Studios. (The slight surface noise audible on several of these selections is due to the limitations of early recording processes; it has not been entirely removed in order to preserve highest fidelity possible and to give more faithful reproduction of original tone qualities.)

Cover designed by PAUL BACON


553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.

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